by Cross Country Nova Scotia Staff, December 8, 2020 (updated Jan 30, 2022)
As registrations for the 2022 Canadian Birkie Ski Festival continue, we remember a historic victory for our province, by a twenty-two-year-old Nova Scotia skier. Daniel Murray recorded the fastest male time in the “1998 Birkie Full”, which is a 55 km cross-country ski race where participants carry a 12-pound backpack.
Murray competed in the 13th edition of the Canadian Birkie, while attending Augustana University College, in nearby Camrose, Alberta, as a 3rd year Bachelor of Science student. Daniel’s hometown club is North Highlands Nordic, located in Cape North, Nova Scotia. He is entering this 13th consecutive season as head coach for the Nova Scotia cross-country ski team.
I will always remember the Birke for it’s community atmosphere, the feed station competitions between various community businesses (a Mexican themed one comes to mind), and gently rolling terrain with twists and turns. In particular to 1998, most of my memories of my race that year have now gone, but I still remember spending the first 1/4 the race holding onto the overall leaders (who did not have a pack) and who were very strong national caliber racers. When the eventual race winner finally noticed that I had a backpack on, he fired a few sparring (yet good natured) comments in my direction, then went to the front of the pack and hit the gas. And, of course, it was nice to have my folks and youngest brother there, to sit together with my university team after the race and share stories of the day.DANIEL MURRAY | 1998 BIRKIE FULL, 55KM
Daniel’s parents, Linda and Ken Murray, introduced cross-country skiing to their four children at early ages – they all developed a love for the sport and competing. The Murrays became key contributors within their local club and the whole family enjoyed the lifestyle of travelling to loppets, races, and the sense of community within all of these events. Linda recounts her family’s adventures at the 1998 Birkie, below.
It’s nice to recall the Birkie day again. It was Valentine’s Day. Stephen age 14, Ken and myself, were entered in the 32 km event. Our start was a half an hour after Daniel’s so we watched that group leave. To our horror we saw Stephen accidentally head out with this group. Ken ran along the frozen lake and caught up with him just before the racers entered the woods. The night before at a team party I asked Daniel’s teammates how I should handle the event. There would be thousands of participants. They all said to go like hell for the first 2 km because the numerous tracks on the lake will be narrowed down to two tracks through the woods for the last 30 km. I did what I could do. When I finished I saw the media interviewing Daniel. We were so glad to be able to share this special time with him. I found out later to my surprise that I had placed second in my age category! Becky Scott’s mom came first.LINDA MURRAY | 1988 BIRKIE
The 1998 Birkie is noted by the Canadian Birkebeiner Society to have been a “slush fest” as temperatures soared in the afternoon, turning tracks into mush; unseasonable weather for this edition of the race which landed on Valentine’s Day. The Birkie traditionally attracts talented and up-and-coming racers from across Canada. Familiar Canadian national team skiers and soon-to-be national team participants competed in races during the 1998 edition. View Full Article (Edmonton Sun, 15/02/1998), Results List (Edmonton Journal, 26/02/1998).
1998 Birkebeiner results. View full list, click here, as published in Edmonton Journal (February 26, 1998).
The Canadian Birkie Ski Festival is one of three Birkebeiner events held worldwide – with others held in Wisconsin and Norway. The Birkebeiner originated in Norway, based on the legend of two warriors who rescued their nation’s prince as a civil war raged in the year 1206, skiing across two mountain ranges with the child, to the town of Lillehammer. The 12-pound pack some skiers carry in the 55-km event represents the infant prince.
The 2022 Birkie will be held at Cooking Lake, Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area (approximately 60 km east of Edmonton), providing recreational and competitive cross-country ski events. Families are encouraged to participate in the “Barnebirkie” classic ski events, where kids and parents ski together, with events of 500 m, 1 km or 3 km. There are many other events for recreational and competitive skiers, view the Birkie website for details. Additionally, a Virtual race will be offered, allowing competitors to race from across the globe, for the 37th edition of the Birkie.
The Legacy of the Birkebeiner – The Last King
“The Last King” tells the story of the legacy upon which the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, is based; developed with support from the Norwegian Film Institute. Norway is ravaged by civil war in 1206, and the prince Haakon Haakonsson is born in secrecy. Half the kingdom is out to kill the boy and whom two men have to protect with their own lives. The Last King is the story of the escape which changed the history of Norway forever. “The daring rescue of a prince made history and history made the first Birkebeiner cross-country ski race in 1932”, Worldloppet (click to learn more).
>“The Last King” – watch on Vimeo (desktop link)
Click to view YouTube videos.
Click on the photos to view the Birkie website.